Dear Stan, 


I sometimes become confused by your word usage.


S: Well, I have generalized the Shannon concept of information carrying 
capacity under 'variety'...  {variety {information carrying capacity}}.  This 
allows the concept to operate quite generally in evolutionary and ecological 


I can easily follow that Shannon-type information (uncertainty) can be 
considered as variety. “Information” and “variance” are very close concepts, 
but variance measurement assumes normality of the distribution.


It seems to me that the carrying capacity of a communication channel is 
determined by the maximum information content H(max) = log(N), whereas the 
information content H = - Sigma p(i) log p(i). (The difference is also the 


Information, then, if you like, is what is left after a reduction in variety, 
or after some system choice.  


This is no longer Shannon’s, but Bateson’s definition, isn’t it? One could also 
say that this is the “meaningful information” selected as a signal from the 
noise (Shannon-type information that is not yet meaningful).


Consider dance: we have all the possible conformations of the human body, out 
of which a few are selected to provide information about the meaning of a dance.


The example is perhaps confusing. Is the system of reference the dance or us 
giving meaning to the dance? It seems to me that the concept of “meaning” 
merits a discussion of its own. Some (Bateson-type) information is more 
meaningful than other; Shannon-type information is defined as meaningless.









On Fri, Sep 11, 2015 at 8:22 AM, Pedro C. Marijuan <> 

Dear Steven and FIS colleagues,

Many thanks for this opening text. What you are proposing about a pretty
structured discussion looks a good idea, although it will have to
confront the usually anarchic discussion style of FIS list! Two aspects
of your initial text have caught my attention (apart from those videos
you recommend that I will watch along the weekend).

First about the concerns of a generation earlier (Shannon, Turing...)
situating information in the intersection between physical science and
engineering. The towering influence of this line of thought, both with
positive and negative overtones, cannot be overestimated. Most attempts
to enlarge informational thought and to extend it to life, economies,
societies, etc. continue to be but a reformulation of the former ideas
with little added value. See one of the last creatures: "Why Information
Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies" (2015), by Cesar
Hidalgo (prof. at MIT).

In my opinion, the extension of those classic ideas to life are very
fertile from the technological point of view, from the "theory of
molecular machines" for DNA-RNA-protein matching to genomic-proteomic
and other omics'  "big data". But all that technobrilliance does not
open per se new avenues in order to produce innovative thought about the
information stuff of human societies. Alternatively we may think that
the accelerated digitalization of our world and the cyborg-symbiosis of
human information and computer information do not demand much brain
teasing, as it is a matter that social evolution is superseding by itself.

The point I have ocasionally raised in this list is whether all the new
molecular knowledge about life might teach us about a fundamental
difference in the "way of being in the world" between life and inert
matter (& mechanism & computation)---or not. In the recent compilation
by Plamen and colleagues from the former INBIOSA initiative,  I have
argued about that fundamental difference in the intertwining of
communication/self-production, how signaling is strictly caught in the
advancement of a life cycle  (see paper "How the living is in the
world"). Life is based on an inusitate informational formula unknown in
inert matter. And the very organization of life provides an original
starting point to think anew about information --of course, not the only

So, to conclude this "tangent", I find quite exciting the discussion we
are starting now, say from the classical info positions onwards, in
particularly to be compared in some future with another session (in
preparation) with similar ambition but starting from say the
phenomenology of the living. Struggling for a
convergence/complementarity of outcomes would be a cavalier effort.

All the best--Pedro

Steven Ericsson-Zenith wrote:

...The subject is one that has concerned me ever since I completed my PhD in 
1992. I came away from defending my thesis, essentially on large scale parallel 
computation, with the strong intuition that I had disclosed much more 
concerning the little that we know, than I had offered either a theoretical or 
engineering solution. 
For the curious, a digital copy of this thesis can be found among the reports 
of CRI, MINES ParisTech, formerly ENSMP,, it is also available as a 
paper copy on Amazon.

Like many that have been involved in microprocessor and instruction 
set/language design, using mathematical methods, we share the physical concerns 
of a generation earlier, people like John Von Neumann, Alan Turing, and Claude 
Shannon. In other words, a close intersection between physical science and 
machine engineering.

...I will then discuss some historical issues in particular referencing 
Benjamin Peirce, Albert Einstein and Alan Turing. And finally discuss the 
contemporary issues, as I see them, in biophysics, biology, and associated 
disciplines, reaching into human and other social constructions, perhaps 
touching on cosmology and the extended role of information theory in 
mathematical physics...

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Pedro C. Marijuán
Grupo de Bioinformación / Bioinformation Group
Instituto Aragonés de Ciencias de la Salud
Centro de Investigación Biomédica de Aragón (CIBA)
Avda. San Juan Bosco, 13, planta X
50009 Zaragoza, Spain
Tfno. +34 976 71 3526 <tel:%2B34%20976%2071%203526>  (& 6818)

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